The visual and musical arts each have their own appeal but perhaps not often enough do they combine in the way that the New London Piano Project has. The task given to the artists was simple enough: “Here’s a piano, now make art with it.” With no other instructions or parameters given to the artists they were free to create as they pleased on their rather unusual canvases.
Jose Ulloa and Guido Garaycochea of have wanted to execute this kind of project for a while and finally got the opportunity when decided to sponsor the project by donating six pianos to be canvases. The second sponsor to make this all possible was I-Park of East Haddam Connecticut who provided all of the transportation for the project. Finally was the Puffin Foundation of New York, which donated funds to the cause.
Once they had all of the sponsorship they needed to begin they started to think about who would be given the pianos and where the pianos would be located. “We made sure to choose the artists to be diverse in style…[and] locations were chosen that we knew would be open to the public and high traffic” says gallery director of Expressiones Jose Ulloa. The diversity of styles was very apparent while searching the town for the various pianos but there seemed to be three distinct ways that the artist’s approached this project. These approaches were using the pianos parts as materials for a sculpture, using the piano directly as a canvas and making the piano into an installation scene.
The sculpture pianos are located in the and outside of the created by David Madacsi’s and Gregory Bowerman, respectively. Madacsi’s piece looks like an exploded diagram of the Baby Grand piano it was created from with all of its parts in a row. The really fun feature of his work is his positioning of the keys in waves as if they’re about to start dancing and play themselves. Bowerman’s work is also made from a deconstructed piano whose parts were fashioned into joyous looking dancing characters.
The canvas pianos are by Guido Garaycochea and a collaboration between Tim Belh and Ignacio Gana on display at the at the respectively. Garaycochea painted his piano in his abstract style using various squares and boxes in his design that have a way of flowing and melting into each other. He also incorporates his retablo boxes in the artwork which were originally used by early Spanish settlers to carry religious scenes but Garaycochea fills them with small art installations. Behl and Gana’s work is a piano painted brightly with a vast green field, and a little red house characteristic of many of Gana’s canvas works.
Finally were those which kept their identities as a mostly intact piano but are made part of a scene. One is a collaboration by Julia Pavone and Mark Dixon located in that aims to represent what music might look like coming out of a piano. The design was simple but effective: personifying a block of wood with a wooden ball for a head and branches for arms. The music was represented by various branches streaming out of the piano decorated with musical notes and even songbirds.
The final installation type piece, visible on the Parade Plaza, brings Jesse Good’s “blob” back to New London. His piano is being swallowed whole or melting into the blob.
“We have gotten both positive and negative responses to the various pianos,” and even the negative ones are a good sign that the project is doing its job because the idea is to get people to notice what is around them and talk about something. It is also intended to raise awareness of New London’s galleries and artists for those who do not often make it out to gallery openings. “If you are not going to come to the gallery, the gallery will come to you,” say Ulloa. He also hinted at a surprise ending to the Piano Project that we should all look forward to.
A formal reception ceremony for the project will be held on Aug. 20 at the Parade Plaza starting at 11a.m. which will move to Expressiones later in the day.